Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Subaru Crosstrek 2023 review: Hybrid S

The Crosstrek looks rugged without having too many ‘busy’ design elements. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Things are going well for Subaru. In the first half of 2023, all of its models in Australia are outselling their figures for the same time last year by hundreds, some even by thousands.

Except for one model, the XV. In fact, sales have plummeted! So what happened to it? It was one of the brand’s top sellers, right?

Well, it’s still here, but now it’s called Crosstrek in Australia as it already is in the rest of the world. And maybe we lied a little - it’s selling very well. In June 2023 it outsold the Forester and Outback, both well established models in Subaru’s local history.

But the name isn’t all that’s new, because this Impreza-spinoff SUV now comes as a hybrid - available here as the Crosstrek Hybrid S.

Traditionally, Subaru has been pretty… traditional. So, will a step towards the future - electrification, that is - help or hinder the Crosstrek’s rise to mass popularity?

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

When you’re wearing a hybrid badge and you’re up against veterans in the field like Toyota with the Corolla Cross, you want to make sure you’re offering up something substantial.

At $45,090, before on-road costs, the Hybrid S tops the range and comes with a features list that screams it from the rooftops. Or the mountaintops. Or at least as far as the gravel tracks will take you towards the mountaintop.

From the outside, 18-inch wheels are the first indicator for the ‘S’ grade - note that hybrids don’t come with spare wheels, just repair kits - as well as body coloured door handles and black plastic trim and cladding, aside from the gloss mirror caps.

The range-topping Crosstrek Hybrid S wears a price tag of $45,090, before on-road costs. (Image: Chris Thompson) The range-topping Crosstrek Hybrid S wears a price tag of $45,090, before on-road costs. (Image: Chris Thompson)

The door mirrors are heated and fold away when parked, while up top there’s a sunroof flanked by roof rails, with a styled spoiler at the rear.

Interestingly, there’s no power tailgate.

LED DRLs and headlights are automatic and are aided by steering responsive active cornering lamps, while the wipers are auto rain-sensing.

Upfront of the Hybrid S is a 11.6-inch portrait multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Chris Thompson) Upfront of the Hybrid S is a 11.6-inch portrait multimedia touchscreen. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Inside, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats (the driver’s is eight-way power adjustable) for the cold - all seats are leather accented - while the steering wheel and shifter are also leather-wrapped.

Tech is covered off by the usual 11.6-inch portrait touchscreen centrepiece, with sat-nav, AM/FM and digital radio, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, USB-A and USB-C plugs (in the rear, too), a wireless phone charger, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system over the usual six-speaker set-up. There’s even an auxiliary audio input.

The driver display is a small 4.2-inch unit flanked by physical dials.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new Crosstrek looks an awful lot like its a development of the Subaru XV.

Which, given the latter’s popularity, is a very good thing.

While there are a lot of similarities, especially when it comes to some of the more rugged elements, the Crosstrek still manages to look quite new.

The raised body and cladding gives the Crosstrek an adventurous aesthetic. (Image: Chris Thompson) The raised body and cladding gives the Crosstrek an adventurous aesthetic. (Image: Chris Thompson)

It’s rugged without having too many ‘busy’ design elements and it even looks at home in inner-city suburbs. 

Of course, its raised body and cladding are mostly for practical reasons, but it gives the small SUV an adventurous aesthetic that separates it from city-focused rivals.

As essentially a high-riding development of the Impreza hatch, its size and proportions also make it look more like a ‘big car’ than a small SUV.

The Crosstrek's size and proportions make it look more like a ‘big car’ than a small SUV. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Crosstrek's size and proportions make it look more like a ‘big car’ than a small SUV. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

Practicality is pretty much a staple of Subaru as a brand, so it should be a huge surprise that it feels that way from the driver’s seat.

The interior doesn’t look futuristic, but it does look functional. 

For example, even though the centre of the dash is all screen - and we love buttons for climate controls around here - the controls for air conditioning and temperature are at least always present on the screen, no sub-menus needed.

The phone charger is large enough for even very tall phones (looking at you, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, pictured), and it’s out of the way to minimise extra digital distraction.

  • The Crosstrek's seats are supportive and easy to adjust to a comfortable position. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Crosstrek's seats are supportive and easy to adjust to a comfortable position. (Image: Chris Thompson)
  • The phone charger is large enough for even very tall phones. (Image: Chris Thompson) The phone charger is large enough for even very tall phones. (Image: Chris Thompson)
  • Rear passengers have access to two central cupholders in the armrest and a small space in the door. (Image: Chris Thompson) Rear passengers have access to two central cupholders in the armrest and a small space in the door. (Image: Chris Thompson)
  • The Hybrid S features decent space for water bottles in the door cards. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Hybrid S features decent space for water bottles in the door cards. (Image: Chris Thompson)

The steering wheel’s buttons, while many, are all clear and simple, as is the iPad-like icon layout on the multimedia screen.

Storage in the front is miles ahead of the rear seats, a large central bin with two cupholders, a big glove box, and decent space for water bottles in the door cards. In the rear, two central cupholders in the armrest and a small space in the door.

But there is a decent amount of space for an adult to sit in the rear, even if the sides of the roof are a little close to the head. It’s a little like the front, where the seats are supportive and easy to adjust to a comfortable position.

Further back, the boot space is a relatively small 315 litres, though its slightly larger than the 291L the petrol versions come with - that extra space likely swallowed by a spare tyre in the petrol versions, as opposed to the smaller batteries taking up some space in the hybrids.

  • The Crosstrek Hybrid S has a boot capacity of 315 litres. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Crosstrek Hybrid S has a boot capacity of 315 litres. (Image: Chris Thompson)
  • Fold the second row seats down for more boot space. (Image: Chris Thompson) Fold the second row seats down for more boot space. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its motor?

This is perhaps the part of the review you’re most interested in - as well as the following sections on efficiency and maybe driving - if the ‘Hybrid’ part of the Crosstrek Hybrid S’ name brought you here.

Like its design and interior, the engine will be familiar to anyone who has owned or driven a relatively recent Subaru - a 2.0-litre flat-four petrol engine good for 110kW/196Nm - which means it makes a little less than the standard petrol variant’s 115kW.

Drive is transferred to all four wheels via a seven-step CVT. (Image: Chris Thompson) Drive is transferred to all four wheels via a seven-step CVT. (Image: Chris Thompson)

However, the electric motor is capable of its own 12kW/66Nm outputs, though Subaru doesn’t supply a claimed total maximum for the whole powertrain.

Drive is transferred to all four wheels - it is a Subaru after all - via a seven-step continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Efficiency – What is its driving range? What is its charging time?

Subaru claims the Crosstrek Hybrid will sip 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn’t enough to blow anyone away, even when you take into account the extra fuel needed for permanent all-wheel drive. The AWD Corolla Cross Hybrid comes with a claimed 4.4L/100km.

Compare this to the 8.5L/100km reading the Crosstrek returned after our time with the car, mostly with a (somewhat unkind) mix of inner-city and semi-rural backroad driving, and it’s clear the Crosstrek isn’t one of the most frugal cars in its class.

Subaru claims the Crosstrek Hybrid will sip 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle. (Image: Chris Thompson) Subaru claims the Crosstrek Hybrid will sip 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle. (Image: Chris Thompson)

More highway driving would certainly have lowered the figure - we’ve achieved 8.0-litres on previous testing with a non-hybrid Crosstrek - but perhaps being top of the charts for efficiency isn’t necessarily what Subaru buyers are looking for.

Of course, the Crosstrek Hybrid S employs a couple of features to avoid using fuel where it can be avoided, such as auto stop-start and its (relatively mild) electric system taking over when mostly coasting or the engine isn’t required.

Driving – What's it like to drive?

Two things stand out after a short stint behind the wheel of the Crosstrek Hybrid, and both become more cemented over time.

The first is that the ‘Hybrid’ part of the ‘Crosstrek Hybrid S’ isn’t quite as prominent in its real-world impact as it is in its name.

The 110kW engine doesn’t feel like it’s being massively helped along by any electric assistance, and the electric motor is very rarely doing the work by itself, as you’d find in any hybrid from Toyota or Honda.

The Crosstrek Hybrid S is pleasant to pilot. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Crosstrek Hybrid S is pleasant to pilot. (Image: Chris Thompson)

That’s a shame, because the Crosstrek could do with a little extra oomph, if not for getting up to speed then for avoiding thrashy engine sounds under acceleration.

The CVT, while not necessarily detrimental to its performance, doesn’t help with that.

But balancing that out is a chassis and platform that’s engaging and predictable - and that’s predictable as a good thing - making the Crosstrek pleasant to pilot.

The 110kW engine doesn’t feel like it’s being massively helped along by any electric assistance. (Image: Chris Thompson) The 110kW engine doesn’t feel like it’s being massively helped along by any electric assistance. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Its controls like steering and braking are nicely weighted for low speeds, commuting, and for more spirited driving, while the suspension and chassis handles surfaces from smooth suburban roads, to city tram tracks, to unsealed roads with ease, soaking up bumps and shakes nicely.

If you’re noticing a theme in this review, it’s that Subaru doesn’t seem to be chasing any ‘best at’ metrics in favour of giving the Crosstrek the ability to do a range of different driving and being at least satisfactory in any given area.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

As the range-topper, the Subaru Hybrid S comes with the lot in terms of safety

And even though it hasn’t been tested by ANCAP yet, it’d be a shock if its score was anything less than the maximum five stars.

It’s what the XV scored in 2017, and the brand hasn’t missed out on full marks since the Impreza and Foresters of the early 2000s.

The Crosstrek Hybrid S is yet to be tested by ANCAP. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Crosstrek Hybrid S is yet to be tested by ANCAP. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Nine airbags include dual front, dual front side, dual curtain, driver's knee, far side, and front passenger seat cushion airbags, plus Subaru’s 'EyeSight' safety suite does the work in crash prevention.

On top of the standard safety features you’d expect from any new car like electronic stability control and ABS, there’s a ‘Pedestrian alert system’, emergency lane keep assist with departure warning and prevention, a ‘Driver Monitoring System’ that includes drowsiness and distraction warnings, sensors and monitors for blind spots and rear cross-traffic, and of course parking sensors.

The Hybrid S features sensors and monitors for blind spots. (Image: Chris Thompson) The Hybrid S features sensors and monitors for blind spots. (Image: Chris Thompson)

Some less common features of EyeSight include ‘Lead Vehicle Start Alert’, ‘Pre-Collision Braking System’, ‘Pre-Collision Throttle Management’, ‘Intelligent Speed Limiter’ as well as ‘Speed Sign Recognition’ and ‘Brake Light Recognition’.

Specific to the S, is a surround-view parking camera, high beam assist, plus front- and side-view monitors to help avoid kerbing wheels or bumping towbars.

It’s all fairly well implemented in the Crosstrek, though some of its chimes can be a bit much - the driver distraction alert can mistake a quick climate control change at the lights for a proper lapse of focus, while an alert for approaching speed and red light cameras comes without any indication of what the noise is for.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

It’s not perfect, in fact, the Crosstrek has a few factors that would probably turn off groups of buyers at a time, but Subaru knows its audience isn’t ‘everyone’.

Subaru customers aren’t trying to get their fuel efficiency below 4.5L/100km, nor find the car with the most luxurious interior. They’re looking for a practical Jack or Jill of all trades, which the Crosstrek does rather well for its segment.

Few small SUVs are as agreeable on rough and unsealed roads without sacrificing suburban comfort, while its features list is practical and provides plenty for the money.

Unfortunately, the hybrid system is a little underwhelming, and if it’s the main draw of the Crosstrek for you, it could be worth considering the less expensive ($38,590) Hybrid L or even a hybrid rival like the Toyota Corolla Cross or Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

If the all-round ability of the Crosstrek is the draw, however, the non-hybrid L is still an excellent offering and doesn’t use a lot more fuel than the Hybrid - plus it’s several grand cheaper at $41,490.

The Crosstrek is great for active people who need a bit of flexibility in one car but for the vast majority, the hybrid probably isn’t the sweet spot in the range. However, that won’t hinder the Crosstrek as an overall model, its popularity is already proven, and the option of a Hybrid puts Subaru a little closer to the eventual necessity of electrification.

$45,090

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Score

3.8/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.